For the first time since his election victory, Ronald Reagan today turned his full attention to lists of potential Cabinet members at a meeting with his top aides and personnel selection committee.
The lists had been prepared by the committee of Reagan's California advisers, headed by his lawyer, William French Smith.
"No final decisions were made. It's a long, laborious process of combing a lot of names," Reagan said as he left the meeting.
He was asked whether the lists had been shortened to three candidates for each Cabinet post.
"Oh my goodness, I wish it were down to three," Reagan replied.
No Cabinet announcements will be made until Dec. 1 or later, White House counsel-designate Edwin Meese III said on his way into the meeting.
The meeting today was both Reagan's introductory discussion of the lists and the final participation in the process by the elderly, wealthy friends and advisers who are often called Reagan's "Kitchen Cabinet."
Further deliberations about the Cabinet and the final decision will be made at meetings involving what Reagan yesterday called "our own people."
This inner circle is to hold its first meeting on Cabinet choices Monday until it is interrupted at noon by the presentation of a turkey to Reagan by the Turkey Growers Association.
Longtime Reagan advisers Meese, Sen. Paul D. Laxalt (R.-Nev.) and Michael Deaver will be joined in that session by Vice President-elect George Bush, White House chief of staff-designate James Baker III and Pendleton James, the man who has organized the technical details of seeking personnel for the Reagan administration.
As Laxalt entered Smith's law offices in downtown Los Angeles for the meeting, he said the discussion would begin with candidates to become secretary of state.
"We'll do the big four first," Laxalt said, referring to the departments of State, Defense, Treasury and Justice. "We'll do a lot of winnowing, I'm sure."
Meese was aked whether any Cabinet selection would be announced before Thanksgiving.
"We wouldn't want to do it before Thanksgiving, or you people would accuse us of giving you turkeys," he joked to reporters. He added that announcement of the appointments would begin the week after Thanksgiving at the earliest. It has not been decided whether the selections will be announced in groups or all at once.
Today's host, Smith, is rumored to be a leading contender to become attorney general, but Reagan only laughed when asked if Smith had been selected.
Before the meeting began, Smith was asked if he wanted to head the Justice Department.
"That's a bridge I haven't crossed yet," he replied.
Reagan sat at one end of a rectangular table between Smith and Meese. The table was not quite large enough for the 21 participants who were crowded together as they went over the lists, which were kept in large binders. Reagan left after three hours, but the others continued meeting late into the afternoon.
Reagan has a very relaxed week ahead of him.
After his Monday meeting, he is to visit Dr. Ralph Bookman, a Beverly Hills allergist, for an injection to help his allergy to pollen and dust. He has taken injections regularly for a minor nasal problem called allergic rhinitis.
On Tuesday, Reagan is to go to his ranch in the hills above Santa Barbara for three days. The only visitors scheduled while he is at the ranch are family members invited for Thanksgiving dinner.
Reagan is to return to Los Angeles Friday, and go to Palm Springs Saturday for a benefit for the Eisenhower Memorial Hospital. He is to spend the night in Palm Springs as the guest of former ambassador to Britain Walter Annenberg.